Sunday Times, October 5, 2008

David G Maillu

(Behind the Presidential Motorcade is an unusual and special-non fiction – call it professional autobiography – publication lamenting the relentless and destructive beating that I have been receiving in Kenya delivered by the three regimes, which have ruled Kenya since independence)

Reviewed by Erick Otieno and Onesmus Kazungu

23(a) Those who were in high school in the early 1970’s will recall the James Hardley Chase novels that were a must read then. At that time one was deemed a dimwit if one could not boast of having read at least 10 of these fancy novels. It was at around this period that a Kenyan, David G. Maillu, came up with his titillating novels titled among others, After 4:30 and Unfit for Human Consumption  and My Dear Bottle. Honestly, though critics then thought Maillu was sexually obsessed with the many sexual innuendos in his books, the books briefly stemmed the James Hardley Chase craze among high school stu­dents.

23(b) This time round Dr Maillu is set to ruffle more feathers with his new book titled Behind the Presidential Motorcade which is an appeal to the citizens” public court for the justice he feels he has been denied by the State.

23(c) Throughout the book, he laments the frustration he has suffered in the hands of the State, which he says was choreographed to destroy his intellectual enterprise – his publishing house, Comb Books. He blames the regimes of the founding father of the na­tion, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, former President ­Daniel Moi and now President Mwai Kibaki for his many woes and accumulated problems facing the country to date like tribalism and runaway corruption.

23(d) Dr Maillu also exploits the new book to sell his Gender-and-Age-Democracy ideology which places men, women and youth at the centre of a nation”s development processes. Maillu is a controversial writer who does not shy away from sensitive issues which, to an ordinary Kenyan, could easily land one in jail and especially during the dark days of the single party political system. We find him intriguing especially when he ad­dresses the thorny issues of tribalism and chok­ing corruption.

23(e) Dr Maillu says that during the Kenyatta regime the Kikuyus dominated all the positions of influence in the country as other tribes looked on help­lessly. He particularly takes a swipe at Kenyatta for employing tribalistic designs to undermine the Akamba Community whose land, he says, was grabbed by the founding father and given to Kikuyus. “Kenyatta did so by dictating that the boundary between Akamba and Kikuyu people should follow the Thika river,” he writes in one of the early chapters of the 230-page book pub­lished by his political party, Communal Democ­racy Party of Kenya (CDK).

23(f) His bitterness with the successive regimes stemmed from the sabotage of his publishing house, suffered in the hands of the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) which was then headed by Mr Matu Wamae. As much as we may not know the truth about his case with ICDC, one is left to wonder why of all reasons ICDC would sacrifice a compatriot at a time when Kenyatta was encouraging Kenyans to take up positions left vacant by the departure of the white man.   

23(g) But Maillu puts his position on tribalism un­tenable when his book shows his close links with his tribesmen in the name of Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, former powerful Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Prof Philip Mbithi, Nairobi Metropolitan Minister, Mutula Kilonzo, former Commissioner of Po­lice, the late Philip Kilonzo, former Archbishop of Nairobi Ndingi Mwana A” Nzeki among oth­ers. It is this group of Kamba elites that Maillu mainly reached out to in a bid to have the case between Comb Books and ICDC settled.

23(h) He describes the Vice President as a born again Christian but on the same vein, one reads an element of mistrust between the two when Maillu seeks Musyoka”s help to link him up with former retired President Moi with the aim of soliciting for Moi”s assistance in resolving his case with ICDC over his Comb Books publish­ing company whose assets were auctioned at the instigation of the state corporation. In fact Musyoka links Maillu with Moi and what transpires during the meeting is shrouded in mystery. On one hand Moi directs ICDC to finalize Maillu”s case while on the other hand tables are turned against Maillu when ICDC refuses to pay Maillu compensation to the tune of Sh 10 mil­lion.

23(i) What appears is that Moi”s modus operandi was two pronged. What he could tell you in the face was not what he would do on the ground as Maillu discovers to his dismay. But one thing is clear according to Maillu”s account, that Moi is a generous man. What with the many handouts Maillu received, with­out flinching an eye, from the former Head of State sometimes hitting the Shs 100,000 Mark! According to Maillu, Prof Mbithi could not assist him seek audience with Moi despite making several promises to facilitate the same.

23(j) Mutula Kilonzo was at one time acting as Maillu”s advocate but there is also an element of distrust between the two when it comes to the Comb Books litigation against ICDC. But being an advocate, Mutula Kilonzo must have known his limitations when it comes to cases with some political connotations. Former Commissioner of Police, Philip Kilonzo, is the one who played a pivotal role in introducing Maillu to President Moi and at the same time tried to woe Maillu into politics at a time when Moi”s regime was facing imminent challenge from the agitators of multi partism in the 1920s.

24(k) Maillu also uses the book to explain the thought behind his rich library of books including the “African Bible.” He says what clicked in his crea­tive mind was not influenced by the socio-politi­cal winds of the Kenyatta regime, but the cultural curriculum and foundation in which he had been born and brought up prior to going to school.

23(l) It is with the publication of the controver­sial “African Bible”: KA, Holy Book of Neter  that Maillu earned the ire of Archbishop Ndingi Mwana A” Nzeki who from the outset condemned Maillu”s “African Bible” as unchristian and a threat to the Catholic faith.

24(m) As much as Maillu is a writer, he has little to talk about the local media. He accuses the me­dia houses of being against him though he has brushed shoulders with the high and mighty of Kenya”s journalists. He believes the mass media in Kenya is partisan and argues that he had been blacklisted by the media by not highlighting his many contributions to the national advancement of the country.

23(n) He is particularly incensed with the lim­ited coverage that the local media gave to his presidential bids and his untested revolutionary ideology. Maillu in this book gives insights into his entry into the murky political waters, unsuc­cessfully trying his hand in the Kaiti parliamen­tary seat. He lost to the hand-picked Gideon Ndambuki whom he describes as a selfish politician. What Maillu fails to understand is that Kenyan politics have more to do with materialism than with personalities and ideologies, which excellently worked against him.

23(o) What amazes about this book is Maillu”s asser­tion that the State was monitoring him even when he went abroad on his many invitations to inter­national seminars and workshops. One case is when he was invited to present a paper in Neth­erlands but on reaching there, for some strange reasons, he was barred from doing the same. The organizers even refused to refund him his fare to and from Kenya. He had to be bailed out by his in-laws in Germany.

23(p) However, Maillu at­tributes this debacle to his political enemies back in Kenya. Back to the ideol­ogy which dominates the book and one which, Maillu believes, is the only revolutionary way to develop the country based on the African traditional social order, which perceives men, women and the youth as complimentary and utilizes them equally and fully when they are given maximum freedom of speech.

23(q) According to the writer, the country needs only three political parties – one for each of the three groups – which can function efficiently in nation building and law enforcement. That would be possible if each party is equipped with prime tools of electing own civil and parlia­mentary representatives, owning mass communication equipment and having an equal share of representation in administrative machinery. The three parties, he writes, should also have an independent accommodation in Parliament, where they share a common hall.

23(r) All in all Maillu is a fine writer, deeply rooted in his belief in the superiority of African cultural tradition and endowed with immense narration skills which ranks him alongside other Kenyan prolific writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o.